Tuesday, May 31, 2005
I was one of those horse-crazy girls long ago, and visiting a barn brought back all kinds of memories--the open spaces, the cozy darkness of the barn, the smell of the horses and the sound of them chewing . . . wow.
Shari borrowed the owner's pony and gave my children rides. Here's me with Eli.
I also got a chance to ride.
Most of the other people there were . . . middle-aged women. I bet they were people like Shari, who's always loved horses and always owned one--or people like me who had once loved horses . . . but then had finally bought one.
I realized when I was there that I don't think I'd be one of those middle-aged women who finally experiences her dream of owning a horse. That passion seems to have gone from me now, though I do remember how strong it was then.
I suppose Freud would enjoy analyzing my horse love. It began at about age 10 and continued until I was mid-teens, about the time boys started noticing me. Go ahead Freud. Do your best.
I think, though, that my yearning for horses had something to do with the fact that I was small and unnoticeable (physically, anyway). On a horse, I could be large and graceful and strong. Maybe that's what attracts pre-pubescent girls to them.
TKD fills a similar place for me now. Doing TKD, I can be strong, graceful, even scary--though in actuality, I am a 5'3", 105 pound, 40-something mom. Both horsemanship and TKD teach grace and strength, they make us more than we are--both physically and spiritually.
I signed my children up for martial arts last October. They're been enjoying it, mostly, and I began in January.
However, they have been losing interest recently. At first, I just thought it was the usual thing that kids do: complain about having to practice and having to give up "free time" for lessons. I used to do that with piano when I was young! So I just did the old "of course we're going! You'll be fine once you're in class." And they usually were.
However, recently, I can see their loss of interest in the way they do class. They're just not trying very hard! They goof off whenever they can get away with it. They don't talk about TKD and work on forms at home like they used to. They tell me all the time that they want to "take a break" from TKD.
Perhaps this is more a parenting question than a martial arts question, but here's the martial arts question:
Can you "take a break" from TKD? Or, if you quit, will you inevitably quit for good? What are the benefits of taking a break? What are the hazards?
I'm not going to "take a break;" not yet at least. I plan to continue my study for a while.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
I really like her classes.
Is she strict? I don't know. Often her classes leave me drenched with sweat. But I learn a lot.
Last night, she took over all-belts when Master Hughes had to leave to get his daughter. We worked on slow-motion kicking in partners--and I got to be Ms. Pryor's partner. I was very happy, as I knew she'd really help me. I've been her workout partner before in class: it's like having a private lesson!
I think part of the thing is that we're both the same height, and probably about the same age, though she may be a bit older. We both have two sons who also do TKD. But she is what I call a "Real Athlete:" intense, dedicated, competitive, hard-driving.
We worked on slow-motion combination kicking, which led her to help me with positioning my side kicks (I STILL have trouble with this very basic kick!). Then she decided that everyone needed help positioning their kicks (made me feel better!) so everyone worked on chambering our legs for a side kick, then a roundhouse. They start off differently. I was glad to just focus on that very basic set of moves for a while, even though we ended up having no time for sparring.
At the end of class we briefly went over TKD etiquette. One thing that impressed me was when Ms. Pryor asked the class "Why do we bow when we enter the dojang?" Lots of people said "To show respect to the flag." But Ms. Pryor said "To show respect to this whole place." I would add: and its teachers.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I wrote about the women's sparring matches--here's a photo of Pam and Aimee sparring. Pam, the 1st place winner, is on the left.
Children spar, too. Here's Master Hughes refereeing a sparring match between two kids.
It was fun to watch the men compete. I didn't get a photo of the men's black belt category, but here is a photo of Jim Gaylord breaking with a punch (yikes!). Jim is Pam's husband, Chelsea and Paul's dad.
Jim and Bryan sparred; they were the only two in their category. It was an intense match, too!
In this picture you can see some interesting things besides the sparring. That's Justin in the black-banded uniform on the right. He was the judge/referee for this category, which means he stands between the fighters at the beginning and tells them when to start. He announces the winner, too.
In the foreground (and in the back), you can see people holding sticks with flags on them. They are for judges to hold. The judges hold them up to show which fighter got a point. One person is "white," the other is "red."
This last picture is my favorite. It was taken yesterday at class.
Yes, that's me! I forgot to have someone photograph me breaking boards at the tournament, so I talked Master Hughes and Mr. Houtz into holding for me on Tuesday. I love this picture with my two teachers holding and me doing something impossible! It's so symbolic. Am I scary or what?
Monday, May 23, 2005
After I realized that there would not be a large crowd at the tournament, I went to the office to call my family and see if the guys wanted to come down and compete. But a crisis was occurring.
Robbie had broken his favorite plastic sword and, while trying to repair it with duct tape, he cut his finger with my sewing scissors. Apparently, there was lots of blood and crying. Bruce was handling it calmly, or at least that's what it seemed like from the conversation. No emergency room visit was necessary.
Bruce told me later that this all happened not 5 minutes after I'd left for the tournament. "You were probably driving up 19th street when he cut himself."
When I got home later that afternoon, there still was blood all over! There were drops of blood on the curtains at the top of the stairs and on the tiles in the shower and on the wall going upstairs. I asked Robbie--who seemed to have recovered completely--if he was waving his hand around while it was bleeding, or if, perhaps, there had been blood spurting out, like in that Monty Python sketch with the Black Knight ("It's only a flesh wound").
He told me to stop laughing.
I'm glad I was NOT there at the time.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Inside, there's a crowd of people getting ready in the hall; the dojang is set up for the competition with cones and a huge table full of trophies on the stage. I get dressed and take my bags (one for sparring gear; one for my cameras and water) out into the dojang where Aimee and I go over our forms.
There are fewer people at the tournament than I expected. Fewer than last year, too, I'm told by someone. Master Hughes calls us all together and tells us that classes will be combined since there's a small crowd. He doesn't seem too bothered that it's a small crowd; Master Hughes seems to take things in stride.
Matthew, Brian's son is there. Aimee, Heidi, and I keep an eye on him; Matthew's mom is in the back row of chairs, too. I wish I remembered her name.
Here are some memorable moments from the day.
The black belts went first, with forms and breaking. It was good to watch them--first so you know what you're supposed to do when your name is called, and second, to get inspired by them!
Ms. Pryor (looks like she's changed her name to Ms. Calef--I'm not sure of the story there) did her awesome form, but she had trouble breaking--I think it took her 3 tries. Her perseverence is inspiring to me--I'm going to do the same break, a flying side kick, but with only ONE board.
I take photos of Justin's breaking (he breaks everything 1st time!) and am amazed by Chelsea's form and breaking--she ends in the splits as she does a knife-hand strike to break a board--awesome.
I decide to take some photos of Matthew. It's fun to watch Master Hughes working with the children. He does so with encouragement and a sense of humor. Plus he really challenges those kids.
My class is a combination. I'm in with Pam (blue belt, maybe my category), Aimee (orange belt, age 25), and Heidi (yellow belt, age 25). I like those women. We sit and chat and encourage each other.
We're asked to do forms first. I do my best job on my form Do San, though I KNOW my stances are not wide enough for Master Hughes! I get third after Pam and Aimee. I did some things better than Aimee (like looking first before I move, and action/reaction in my punches) but her stances are awesome, she's faster and just SCARY when she does it!
Next is breaking, and everyone seems to have trouble with the boards, like Ms. Pryor. I'm a bit worried as I'm doing two breaks. But when it's my turn, I find there aren't enough board holders for me to do tow in a row. So I do one at a time. The board snaps as I reverse kick!
"You're ahead now, Jane. You can do your next break or not. Up to you," says Master Hughes.
I think a minute.
"I want to do it. I've never done it before, and I want to try."
Maybe that wasn't the right thing to say. As I set up, I hear Master Hughes laughing. "I'm not gonna look," he says to Chelsea. Humpf!
I size up the board, become one with it, breathe, and run. My kick lands fair and square and the board snaps.
Unfortunately, when I get back to my place, I realize I'd forgotten to give the camera to Aimee. NO picture! Still, I win the trophy for first in breaking!
Sparring doesn't go as well. I lose quickly to Heidi who is fast and strong. "That's why I didn't want to spar her," says Aimee when I sit down. At the end, Aimee and I spar, and I score a few times, but Aimee wins.
I wanted to show Master Hughes that I can spar, but I didn't. That's the biggest disappointment. But sparring is still my favorite activity, I think. Pam says later that I should go for more kicks to the head. "You're flexible. You should do it," she encourages me. I think about asking Ms. Pryor for some coaching sometime.
The rest of the tournament is relaxing as we watch the men, the children's flying side kick contest and belt-tying contest. I chat with Patrick, who has won 1st in forms and 3rd in breaking, and his Dad, Tim, who is very disappointed that he missed Patrick's competition.
When I come home no one seems particularly interested in hearing about the tournament. The boys are somewhat intrigued by my trophies, but somehow that doesn't lead to talk about what happened there. Instead, Bruce gets out his speech trophies so the boys can have a trophy-admiring day!
One of my Karate Forums colleagues has a signature file that says something like Tournaments are the least important part of TKD. After being at one, I think I'd agree.
- Gave me something to work toward
- Gave me a chance to hang out with TKD people for part of a day
- Gave me a chance to do my stuff in front of the head teacher
- Gave me a chance to practice calm self-confidence under pressure
- Gave me something to write about.
But I don't really think that competing for trophies is the heart of martial arts, or GETTING trophies is. I prefer classes, and even promotional tests to the tournament.
Any thoughts from any of you about the importance of competition in something like martial arts?
Watch for more pictures soon! I'm going to get a flying side kick photo this week, I hope. Then my film from my film camera will be done, and I'll get more pictures posted here.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005
"I don't want to go to Tae Kwon Do. Can we just go Saturday? I think I want to quit."
I am taking this approach now: we're doing this together and you'll keep doing it because you really do like it and you need to keep at something even when it's hard to give up free time for it.
They usually do settle down once we're there, though they've been a bit squirrelly as of late. I think they take advantage of Mr. Houtz's easy-going classes. Next week we'll go to Master Hughes's classes. He runs a tighter ship, and I think that will be good for them, help them to behave better and learn more.
But if Robbie does continue to lose interest (he seems to be very uninterested in learning his form recently), I'll have a dilemma to face: Do I make them keep going, hoping that they'll revive? Or do I let him quit after a certain amount of time?
And what would that mean for my study of Tae Kwon Do? Would I quit, too (especially if Eli followed in Robbie's path)? I go now because it's something we can all do together, during a time I'm with the guys anyway. Would I continue it if it meant going out at suppertime to practice?
I don't know. I don't want to think about that now.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
There's a strap so one can attach it to a football or hockey helmet. I wonder if it would strap on to a TKD helment (I don't have one yet as orange belts don't kick to the front of the head).
I don't think I'll wear it. I can't close my mouth completely when it's in.
It's a bit scary to contemplate.
"No," I said. "But I will be training."
Tuesday: Ballet, TKD
Thursday: Ballet, TKD
Friday: Massage :-) (I'll need it by that time!)
Saturday: Tournament. Forms, Breaking, Sparring
Mr. Houtz convinced me to do two breaks for the tournament. He and Brian held pads while I did a reverse kick, then turned and did a flying side kick with a short runway. It will be mighty cool if I can do it. I haven't practiced yet with boards!
I also feel more confident about my form (I'll do Do San, the form I'm working on now for my next promotional test). After we did forms in class, Patrick (the 10-year-old forms genius) turned to me and shook my hand martial-arts style. "I saw your form. It looks really good," he said.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
"You're bending your knee when you bring it back through. It needs to be straight."
She demonstrates, showing how the leg should come through first position, straight and aligned.
I try, and notice that it's a bit difficult.
"Suki, I think I'm doing it wrong because I have hyperextended knees. They bump into each other on the way back through, so the working leg bends." I show her my hyperextended knees.
See the way that my legs line up but my heels don't touch? Ideally, the dancer's legs should be straight down and even from thigh to heel.
We talk for a while about different solutions to this problem, including ones Carol has suggested to me: don't straighten the leg the whole way, do a first position with an inch between your heels. Of course I'd forgotten about them today; that's why my leg wasn't straight. It seems like I'm just going to have to go on learning the same thing over and over until it's just the way I dance.
"I think ballet is all about learning to dance with the body you've been given," I tell Suki.
Her eyes widen. "THAT'S IT!" she says. "That's exactly what ballet is about. Learning to dance with the body you've been given."
A lesson for ballet, TKD, and life.
We begin by hearing about how our students did at the big tournament in the Quad Cities last weekend. Many people won trophies (1st, 2nd, and 3rd got trophies).
Our workout today was basically practice for our tournament this weekend. One chance to do our form, perfectly. Breaking practice (with pads, not boards). Combination kicking.
Some moms I don't know well are there: Nick's mom Jean and Maverick's mom--don't know her name. Stacy is sitting on the sidelines with a sore knee.
Maverick's mom says she might come help out at the tournament. "I figure we need to be there to help," she says. Stacy talks about getting her board filled (when you go for your black belt as she is, you need to have the school's black belts watch you do your forms and sign a board to show you've done well). Aimee is there, too--she went to the Quad Cities tournament and will be in our school's tournament.
It all makes me think about my own approach and committment to TKD. It is certainly not that strong. I do like it, but I'm not sure I'd be willing to make it the first thing in my life (or even the third, after teaching and my family). Ballet comes before it, as does writing. Can I still continue and improve with this attitude?
Ms. Pryor often says that different people may want different things out of learning martial arts. What do I want? Can I get what I want out of it at the level I'm now working?
Master Hughes asked me to go get something and come back. I left, but then I could not find my way back. When I got inside the building, everything looked different. I kept trying different rooms, different hallways, different floors, but I couldn't find the room.
That dream is terribly familiar. I have it from the teacher's perspective all the time--I'm teaching a class I know nothing about, or it's the 3rd week of classes and I realize I haven't met with one class yet, or I can't get to a classroom where I'm supposed to meet students. I haven't had that dream from the student's perspective in quite a while.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Here's Eli doing the same thing.
They finally did jump, sans pad stack, but I didn't get a photo.
I love jumping over a SMALL stack of pads, and I did.
"Good job!" said Mr. Houtz. "Your form is better when you jump over pads." No picture of it yet; sorry.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
"Hey! You guys are back!"
"Hey Savaun!" we call back.
We get dressed for class in our new black TKD t-shirts, appropriate for the warm afternoon, and start our workout. Brian and Matt are also there, also in black TKD t-shirts. We all seem to match today.
"So what's new?" asks Brian.
"Not much," I reply. "Except I turned in my grades. That's a big event in my line of work!"
Mr. Houtz is talking with the mom of a new white belt. They seem to know each other. During basic moves, Eli encourages the new student and works hard while the little boy goofs around. I'm glad he's being a good example.
We run through our forms.
"Hey, I didn't blank out like I usually do!" I exclaim to Brian. "Maybe it's time for me to start learning Palgue 3. Do you know it?"
"Well, it's not pretty yet," he says.
Not pretty, maybe, but pretty easy! There are some new combinations of moves, and I skip around Brian, trying to watch them from different angles. We run through the form a few times while the children have a break.
During combination kicking, I tell Brian about my sparring tactics.
"See, what I do is move fast and go inside where you can't kick me." I hop around, placing kicks where they might score, but Brian is too fast at blocking. Somehow, my demonstration turns into a sparring match, and we kick, block, for a while, laughing and chatting as we do.
"I need to warn your husband about you!" jokes Brian as I come close to landing a punch.
You'd think I'd get beat as he is taller, stronger, and a guy, but I do OK. I don't think either of us scores. I completely trust Brian, too, like sparring with Mr. Houtz. They're my TKD family.
Sparring is exhausting, though, and as fun as it is to play around this way, I get winded and we take a break and go back to combination kicking.
After class we discuss the upcoming tournament at our school. Brian can't participate because of work ("We have an airplane crash scheduled for that day," he says. He's in the city police force and they're doing a simulation!) He seems very disappointed.
"You going to be here tomorrow?" he asks.
"I don't know." Two days in a row of TKD is too much for me. "Maybe I'll see you next week. We may start coming on Mondays and Wednesdays."
"OK. Have a good weekend!" Brian calls as I head down the stairs.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
I would be in the "Executive Women" class. I picture women in heels and suits bashing each other with their briefcases.
More frightening: in two years, I will be competing in the "Senior Women" category, the highest age category. I don't FEEL that old (except maybe after today's class).
"OK everyone. We're going to do some moving around before we start out," she says.
We certainly move. She puts on some hard-driving music and we kick, punch, step, and slide to teh music. It's quite the workout; I have to stop to stretch out stiff joints or take a couple of breaths every now and then. I am hoping I'm not the only one . . .
It's exhausting but also fun to do moves to music. It helps me find a rhythm when she gives us a sparring combination to do over and over. By the time it's over, I'm drenched in sweat.
We also do some stretching, and it's a good day for it--warm and humid!
At the end of class, there's a round-robin sparring. It's fun to watch, and Chelsea picks me as her partner at one point (I don't even score on her, but it's fun to try!)
After class, a couple people compliment me on my sparring. "It's tough to go up against Chelsea," says one mom, a spectator mom. Darn right it is!
Friday, May 06, 2005
This keeps happening, as you might have noticed.
I really think the pictures add a lot to my blog, but it's been difficult for me to take them. During class, I'm kind of busy just keeping up. Plus, it would seem weird for me to stop working out and go to get my camera, kind of like I'm some kind of voyeur.
In a way, I guess I am a kind of voyeur. Aren't all essayists? We live life, but we watch it at the same time. Or maybe, we live life, and then after we live it, we replay it in our minds and watch it.
That's what I do anyway. Before I write these columns, I think about the day: think about what's been important about it, or what has created some dramatic tension--something I read, something someone said to me, some aspect of class. I recreate that moment in my mind, and sometimes on the blog for you to read. Often I write my reflections on it. I guess essayists are all voyeurs of their own lives.
But I still want to get in more pictures for you loyal readers of my blog! I think I'll try taking some pictures before class. The children don't mind; in fact, they like it. Especially mine!
The teachers don't know I'm doing a blog--and I'm not sure I want to publicize this to them, as I've said before. "It's for Grandma and Grandpa," is my usual excuse, and of course it is, because my Mom and Dad do read this blog.
So I promise I'll try to get more pictures soon! And this summer, I'm going to figure out how to do more with movies!
Thursday, May 05, 2005
We all went to Master Hughes's Wednesday Ninja Kids class. I don't think I was the tallest, but I was the oldest. I volunteered to help out and got the job of holding the pads while the children kicked. But I got a workout, too, during basic moves. Then we did sparring.
I think I am actually pretty good at sparring.
This shocks me.
But I don't think of it as fighting. I think of it as petite allegro, that part of ballet where we practice fast footwork and being light on our feet .
The way I'm sparring (right now anyway) is light-footed and fast. It seems to work.
I was paired with Patrick, a 10-year-old brown belt, who is a forms genius. But he is not light on his feet. He is slow and very strong. But fast and light beats strong when it comes to sparring. I beat the tar out of Patrick, as Patrick's dad pointed out, scoring point after point on him with my very limited knowledge of fancy kicks.
What kinds of people could I beat with my sparring approach? I don't know.
I also don't know what I think about it becoming one of my favorite parts of TKD.
Monday, May 02, 2005
I am very impressed at how the Master has gotten Eli to participate.
I'm sure that this will help him at school and other places. I'm also
impressed at your work. When do you plan to get your black belt??
That last sentence made me think.
My boys talk about belt levels and becoming a black belt a lot. Master Hughes asks brown belts if they know when they'll test for black belt--the idea is that if you're serious about it, you'll have planned it out at that stage.
To be honest, I haven't really thought about it before now. It's not that I don't want a black belt. Or that I do! I just have enough to think about with learning all I'm learning--the forms, the kicks, the moves, how to spar, a bit about the language, the next move of Do San [on Saturday, I completely blanked when we were doing our forms in front of the black belt! I did the first two moves to left and right and then . . . nothing. Luckily, Chelsea was watching me and she came out on the floor to get me started again. I wonder why that happens]
So now I think: will I get my black belt?
Well, maybe I will. I've enjoyed the learning so far. It might be something that will help me in my life as I get older. It would kind of be cool to know that much, be able to do that much, and it would really make a cool contrast to my outward appearance!
So the answer to the question "when do you plan to get your black belt?" is "I'm not really planning, but if I keep going, it would probably be spring of 2007."
I wrote after visiting the website to find out if his organization ever sent out people to do seminars on Martial Arts for Peace. At first he e-mailed me to say he'd forward my note to his daughter, and then he sent me another e-mail recommending I look at some of his teaching materials. He'd looked at this blog, and I think he gathered that our dojang might not be ready yet for a Martial Arts for Peace seminar.
Although our school is very much dedicated to the education of the whole person, and to practicing the tenets of Tae Kwon Do, he may be right. I did write about my hesitations in my most recent post, and the mention of "Superfoot" seemed to set off an alarm to Dr. Webster-Doyle.
I think, though, that I may share my "Respect" book with Master Hughes, see what he thinks. It might be a slow process, getting people to think about TKD a bit differently, but I don't think our philosophies are so far off the mark. Maybe we could incorporate more conflict-resolution teaching in our classes. We? Maybe I'm getting a bit bossy here!
At any rate, I am willing, on my own, to find out more about this approach and to share it with my colleagues at our dojang.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
I don't see it that way, as you can tell from my blog.
I found another prominent person who thinks learning martial arts can help bring about a more peaceful world, especially for children.
I finally visited Terrence Webster Doyle's website, martialartsforpeace.com. I've been meaaning to give it a look since I read his book One Encounter. It seems that he's developed some teaching methods that he offers to people to help children learn how to resolve conflict peacefully. One mentioned several times is telling the children the 3 Ps.
Prevent a fight from happening by avoiding it.
Prepare to use your brain instead of your fists to resolve it.
Protect yourself by learning how to fight so you don't have to.
There's much more, of course, because none of that is easy for kids or anyone else!
I wonder if our dojang would consider inviting him or someone to give a seminar. I think Master Hughes likes the more flamboyant types, like this Superfoot character, but it seems that MAFP fits with the tenets of Tae Kwon Do that we say at every class. (And after reading Webster-Doyle's critiques of some martial arts schools which are extremely fighting-oriented and militant, I am glad to be where I am).
I suppose I could share the info with Master Hughes. But how far would people be willing to go with stuff that's not actually related to what goes on at promotional exams? I wonder.